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FRANCK: Piano Works [TrackList follows] – Jorg Demus, piano – Piano Classics

FRANCK: Piano Works [TrackList follows] – Jorg Demus, piano – Piano Classics PCL0002, 74:30 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

Jorg Demus (b. 1928) recorded these collected piano works of Cesar Franck in 1980 Vienna. Along with the three standard pieces – Prelude, Chorale et Fugue; Prelude, Fugue et Variation; and Prelude, Air et Final –  Demus includes 19 extremely brief works – album leaves – that indicate Franck’s liturgical (organ) and contrapuntal leanings.  Franck’s notion of a Canon et Fugue, for instance, fuses the Schumann style with his own austere chastity of taste. Pieces like Chant de la Creuse, Chant Bearnais, Noel angevin, and Ave Maris Stella express, in extremely concentrated form, Franck’s ecclesiastical piety, which shares a voluptuousness we find in Liszt.  The various Pieces, Elegies, Pastorales, and Canons certify the powerful model of Bach in Franck’s evolving musical persona. Among the longest of these miniatures is Les plaints d’une poupee, a parody piece in the manner of Gounod, here with a carillon middle section.

He lovely organ work, Prelude, Fugue and Variation appears in the piano version by Harold Bauer, rendered with chaste but mellifluous authority by Demus. The contrapuntal last section resonates in the manner of church bells combined with a music-box.  Demus, of course, enjoys a reputation for Viennese and German piano literature, but his range extends deeply into Gallic repertory, like the Debussy Preludes and Etudes.  We could make a connection here to Franck, since the longest miniature to perform on this album, Danse lente, looks back to Chopin and ahead to Debussy.

Demus concludes with the other large work of 1887, the Prelude, Aria and Finale, a favorite of Alfred Cortot. The cyclical piece intends to be more “secular” than its famous companion, although “transformational” elements in both partake of Wagner’s Parsifal. This piece has a militant grandeur in the opening section reminiscent of Liszt. Many of the (repeated) motives seem to derive specifically from the earlier Prelude, Chorale et Fugue but not so intensely polyphonic. Much of the arpeggio and variation filigree of the Aria nods to Liszt, affixed to organ cadences from Franck’s liturgical background. Demus achieves a luminous keyboard sound that in its own way salutes Franck’s especial mysticism.

TrackList:

Prelude, choral et fugue en Si Mineur,
Prelude, fugue et variation en Si Mineur, Chant de la Creuse,
Piece en Sol bemol Majeur: Poco lento, Piece en Mi Mineur:
Andantino quasi allegretto, Chant Bearnais en Sol bemol,
Ave Maris Stella en Re Mineur, Canon en Mi Majeur,
Piece en Ut diese Mineur: Poco allegro,
Piece en Sol bemol Majeur: Poco allegretto, Piece en Sol Majeur:
Noel angevin, Piece en La bemol Majeur: Poco maestoso,
Berceuse en La bemol Majeur: Allegretto amabile,
Pastorale en La Majeur: Allegretto moderato,
Elegie en Ut diese Mineur: Lento, Piece en Fa Mineur: Allegretto,
Canon en Re bemol Majeur: Andantino, Piece en Fa diese Mineur: Poco allegro,
Piece en Re Mineur: Andante cantabile, Danse Lente, Les plaintes d’une poupee, Prelude, aria et final, Prelude, Aria, Final

—Gary Lemco

 

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